Hot damn, what an evening of basketball in Berkeley Wednesday night. The Utah Utes stormed into Berkeley, met a Cal team that was on fire for the first half and then found themselves rallying against a team struggling to find an offensive rhythm for the majority of the second half. This game had multiple stories woven throughout the main narrative with referees redefining the meaning of off the charts awful, Cal classically blowing a double digit first half lead and two thrilling overtime periods. All the while, the student section was filled with bright neon yellow hats that read “Bears Get Weird” one day after a protest made national news. There is truly no place like home.
The Bears ended up pulling out the victory after the final buzzer and this was particularly impressive given the massive number of calls that went against them. Countless calls went against the Bears during the first half that went relatively un-noticed by those in attendance at Haas. That was no longer the case in the second half and in overtime where the refs managed to give away a Cal possession, call two awful fouls that forced the best player on the court to sit on the bench for significant minutes and ironically bailed Cal out of some horrible offensive sets. The officiating has been particularly devastating to watch this season and yet tonight took its own special place on the iron throne of awful Pac-12 officiating.
Enough about the refs and onto the game. How about Jabari Bird taking over in overtime and putting the team on his back, keeping Cal very much in position for the NCAA tournament. Jabari would end up leading the team in scoring and came up with almost every single big offensive play in the two overtime periods. Bird would put the finishing touch on his evening with a Charlie Moore ally oop to take his team into the night victorious.
Let’s take a deeper look at the first half, second half and overtime periods below!
Cal started the game off on fire, hitting nearly every shot and eventually building a 18-4 lead. Ivan Rabb was able to find position in the low block early and often while his teammates were able to get him the ball in a position to be successful. Grant Mullins would hit a three to put Cal up nine with under five minutes to play and the Bears would then get lazy. Cal turned the ball over on multiple possessions, leading to easy Utah buckets and the lead dwindled to six. The Bears would end up pushing the lead back to eight before the half time break with Ivan Rabb having a big role on the offensive glass.
The thing I will miss most when Ivan leaves is watching him board out of his area.— ReefCGB (@ReefCGB) February 3, 2017
The two teams came out firing after the halftime, trading baskets on each side of the floor. Ivan Rabb would then get called for his third personal foul which ended up having a massive impact on Cal both offensively and defensively. Then the Bears would endure a span of four minutes and twenty seven seconds without scoring a basket. Over the course of the second half Utah found holes in the Cal defense and was able to start coming away with easier and easier baskets. Conversely the Bears offense looked lost and there is cause for concern that nearly every single game this year requires the Bears going cold on offense for at least some significant portion of time.
With about 9:07 left in regulation, Utah finally accomplished erasing all of Cal’s lead, tying the game. Cal finally went back to what worked in the first half by finding Ivan Rabb down low twice on the next two possessions and came away with points each time. The second half was defined by Cal searching for some offense when it seemed as though the entire team had gone cold or simply the basket didn’t want the Bears to win.
The Bears finally created an opening when Bird found Kingsley down low on a nifty inbound play and the next Utah possession the Bears forced a shot clock violation. The crowd came roaring back into the game and the Bears found a renewed energy on the defensive side of the ball. With 24 seconds left in the contest, Kuzma would take the ball into the lane and get blocked leaving Cal with 23 seconds to potentially tie the game. The Bears would fail to execute one of many offensive possessions but Charlie Moore ended up falling down and getting a foul call before he hit the floor leading to free throws with three seconds left, Bears down one. Moore hit one of his two free throws and on the miss it looked clear that the ball went off a Utah player. The infamous refs would convene and after much deliberation they decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to award Cal the basketball. After a failed Utah possession, the game headed into overtime.
Overtime #1 and Overtime #2
The first overtime was where the Pac-12 refs did their best job at controlling the outcome of the basketball game. They called an incorrect jump ball, silly calls against Ivan Rabb and a late lane violation on Jabari Bird. After arguably the worst possession for Cal on the evening, Jabari bird hit a big two point shot to tie the game in overtime. The Bears would end up giving that basket right back and ran out of time to execute a final possession. On to overtime #2.
Similar to the rest of the game, the second overtime period started with the referees becoming extremely tight on their whistle. With two minutes to go, Cal had established a two point lead. Cal then came up with a defensive stop that allowed them to head into Utah territory with the potential to create a two basket deficit for the Ute’s and perhaps finally put the game out of reach. Cal was bailed out by a foul call of their own after yet another ineffective possession but Kam missed both free throws keeping the game in striking distance.
This is where Jabari Bird simply took over the game. Bird found himself in the corner, rose up and hit a go ahead three that put Cal in a great position coming down the stretch. The next Utah possession a loose ball ended up finding Bonam in the corner who then sank a game tying three with about ten seconds left. The Bears point guard Charlie Moore then finally found Jabari Bird for the game winning ally-oop dunk and the Bears, along with all the fans at Haas pavilion, could at last walk home happy.